Recently I have read that Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will talk to the Australian Government about the need to treat New Zealanders living in Australia like others living there. Just as quickly I saw that current Leader of the National Party has shot it down, saying that it was pretty silly of Ms Ardern to do make the promise.
How refreshing I thought. New Zealand has prided itself in the past as being a nation with a spine when it comes to thorny international issues. Last year for example a resolution was passed in the United Nations General Assembly and accepted by the United Nations Security Council condemning Israel’s blatant ignorance of resolutions demanding the cession of home building in Gaza and the occupied territories.
But New Zealand’s finest hour was after the Rainbow Warrior bombing. Horrified that such a thing could happen here, and furious with France – a supposed ally or friend – for carrying out such a heinous act, New Zealand bravely stared down France. It won much respect internationally from other peoples and nations for doing so. An encore – if that is what it could be called – came in 1995 when the French resumed nuclear testing resulting in the recall of the New Zealand ambassador to France.
Notably these acts of New Zealand steadfastness have happened under both National and Labour led Governments. However in more recent circumstances both parties have unnecessarily mellowed, which has led to some unfortunate cave ins when dignitaries visiting from overseas have been met with protests, and the New Zealand Government has failed to stand up for the protesters, especially if they come from countries whose Governments are not known for tolerating dissent.
More sadly still, it seems that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters who in the past has been seen as an unapologetic backer of principled protests, has decided he might apologize to Australia.
For what? What have we done that justifies apologizing to Australia?
It is unlikely that the stoush with Australia will ever get close to the gravity of the run ins with France. However it does need to be noted that this is rather bullying behaviour on Australia’s part and New Zealanders have a right to expect that they will be treated no worse by Australian officials than the nationals of any other country.
So, I welcome the steel in Jacinda Ardern’s spine. To be willing to make such a stand might be precisely what is needed to remind the Australian Government that we have rights too. The Australian Government seems likely – if current polling can be taken with confidence – to not exist after the 2019 General Election (if indeed the Australian Government can last until then), and several Ministers of the Australian Government have recently made mistakes thinking that New Zealanders living there will just roll over and meekly accept whatever comes their way..